Contractors repairing the fallen power lines and replacing the damaged pole. PHOTO/ELISA VORSTER
Logging loader driver Dave Bashford had no choice but to sit inside the cab of his tractor for 10 minutes and watch as fallen 11,000-volt power lines sparked all round him.
Mr Bashford was overseeing four crews at White Rock Road on Thursday, clearing trees on behalf of South Wairarapa District Council, when he accidentally toppled a power pole with his tractor.
The damage had caused a power outage leaving the centre of Martinborough without power for two hours, while White Rock Road residents continued to be without power throughout the afternoon with no indication when power would be restored.
Mr Bashford said he went to drive the tractor forward but the counterweight on the back of loader caught on one of the white plastic guy ropes attached to the pole.
“It just all pummelled down like a bloody pumice chimney.”
Although he wasn’t injured, Mr Bashford was trapped inside the tractor cab as the power lines were caught on the loader.
“I waited only a few seconds for the sparking to stop and the fuse to pop but I knew I couldn’t move.”
Mr Bashford said he was trained to deal with emergency situations like this and knew that getting out of the loader would have meant death.
“I knew if I sat there long enough someone would come and get me out.”
In the meantime, all he could do was to yell at people to stay away as he waited for a nearby power division crew to come and isolate the power supply.
“The ground all around would be hot, it would cook you” he said.
Martinborough fire chief Bill Butzbach said some small patches of grass caught fire from the sparks.
Two fire crews had be called out.
“The fires could have been a lot bigger because we all know the conditions are horrendous at the moment.”
Mr Bashford escaped unharmed and even stuck around to help direct traffic while the lines were being repaired.
“I’m just sorry it affected all these people.”
He said this was the first time anything like this had happened to him in his 51 years in logging.
Mr Butzbach said Mr Bashford was a very lucky man to be alive, although Mr Bashford didn’t seem fazed.
“It’s not life threatening unless you act like a bloody idiot and panic.
You’ve got to think about what the situation is, take stock of it, and you’re all right.”